Statement on the Passing of Cardinal Jaime Ortega
MIAMI, FL – The Cuba Study Group mourns the passing of Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino and offers heartfelt condolences to his family and to the bishops, clergy and laity of the Cuban Catholic Church.
Cardinal Ortega became archbishop of Havana in 1981, at a time when Cuba was still officially designated as an atheist state by the revolutionary Castro government. Since then he oversaw the growth on the Cuban Catholic Church, paving a significant space for it to carry out its mission and for the expansion of religious freedoms in the communist country.
Cardinal Ortega was a steadfast advocate for the social mission of the Church and the role of civil society in Cuba. His efforts were instrumental to the development and success of groundbreaking, charitable social programs such as Caritas Cuba and Cuba Emprende.
“Cardinal Ortega believed engagement was essential to breaking the status quo in Cuba and worked tirelessly to find opportunities for dialogue and reconciliation among all Cubans at home and abroad,” said Cuba Study Group Executive Director Ricardo Herrero. Cardinal Ortega also played a critical role in the talks between Pope Francis, President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.
“History will remember Cardinal Ortega for his unceasing efforts to expand the spiritual and social outreach of the Catholic Church within Cuban society,” commented Cuba Study Group Chairman Carlos Saladrigas. “His was a monumental task given the exceptionally challenging environment.”